He had The Saloon to run. Roosevelt
said he would, he knew everything to do
by now. Rocky walked up and met him,
said he’d help out anytime, would walk by
to see how Roosevelt was getting along . . .
Between them, Juan knew, all would be well.
Then he went to Adore’s. Young Jason said
she was in and out with that man who looked
like what she called him, Mister Questionmark.
Juan said to tell her where he was, the hotel.
He checked his car, it started fine. He drove
to HOTEL HOTEL. The neon was fixed.
Just like it was when I came to town.
He told the desk clerk he was leaving town.
He went up to his room and called Cathleen,
whose message came on: I am in Marin . . .
He called there, she said she found this house
larger than the California Street place.
which she still owned, but lived summer now
in Lagunitas, on the road from Fairfax
to Point Reyes, then south to Bolinas . . .
She was expecting him, had plenty of room,
was happy he was coming to stay a while.
He went to Madame Peggy’s on the way.
She said Paolo was out with Georgia,
Beth had gone home to Atlanta. Her days
on St. Charles, Beth said, were over and done.
Juan said he hoped it was not about him.
Peggy grinned: You should know better . . .
He drove to Baton Rouge, and from there
to Houston, sleeping in San Antonio,
striking up a friendship with the barmaid,
who reminded him of Irene behind
the soda fountain counter when they were kids.
Carmen looked younger than Irene had been,
she had three kids but her husband was gone.
She wanted to know all about New Orleans.
He drank Cokes at the bar, ate dinner later,
rode the elevator to his room
and slept, out early driving to El Paso.
He called Chloe Waller in Las Cruces,
the Apache-French woman his uncle Jess
almost married. She still loved his uncle,
who had been dead years but she didn’t know.
She gave Juan the turquoise Navajo ring
her late husband wore. This here crack in it,
she pointed, is from a fight with a Jew . . .
He watched her expression. She was handsome
but he noticed her lower lip twitched.
He wondered what else her widowhood spawned.
Did the rancher on the border say Spics
and Niggers too? He rose before she woke
and drove off at dawn, wondering how far
today: Tucson, or with luck San Diego . . .
It was sunny all the way, as it had been
already. He stopped for coffee on the road,
his first time on Highway 10, which became
8 outside Tucson, into San Diego . . .
He would go up to La Jolla, to the house
where his old friend Lafayette Young was living.
(8 April 2011)
copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander